LOS ANGELES (TheWrap) - Honest, delicate portrayals of family and twisted, explicit sexual obsessions will pepper the 29th annual Outfest film festival, opening Thursday night at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
The oldest continuously running film festival in Los Angeles, the 11-day Outfest 2011 will kick off with director Rashaad Ernesto Green's first feature film, "Gun Hill Road" and feature 164 films, 67 of which are feature-length.
New this year, Outfest will incorporate more music into its programing. The July 14 Documentary Centerpiece screening of "Hit So Hard," which chronicles the rock life of Patty Schemel -- former drummer for Courtney Love's rock band Hole -- will be followed by a concert featuring Schemel and her rocker friends, including Linda Perry, lead singer of 4 Non Blondes.
The festival will also be honoring "Party Monster" directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato with this year's 15th Annual Outfest Achievement Award.
The festival isn't just for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender niche audiences, says Outfest Director of Programing Kim Yutani.
For example, Outfest is world-premiering "The Wise Kids," a coming-of-age story set in South Carolina that only has one gay character. The wacky "Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same" was praised by lesbians, straight women, and gay and straight men alike during its premiere at Sundance in January.
Among the festival highlights; "Gun Hill Road"
The film follows ex-inmate Enrique (Esai Morales) returning to his Bronx home to find that his family changed -- his teenage son Michael has come out as Vanessa (played by newcomer Harmony Santana), a transgender woman.
The July 12 U.S. Dramatic Centerpiece, directed by Maryam Keshavarz, features a budding intimate relationship between Atafeh (Nicohl Boosheri) and Shireen (Sara Kazemy), two teenage girls struggling for their personal freedom in contemporary Tehran. "It's not a story we've seen before," Yutani told TheWrap.
Director Andrew Haigh, winner of Outfest 2009's Artistic Achievement Award for his first feature, "Greek Pete," returns July 13 with his second feature. The film, which first premiered at the SXSW festival in March, explores the delicate negotiations between two gay men (Tom Cullen and Chris New) after a drug and alcohol-influenced one-night stand in Nottingham.
"'Weekend' raises the bar in terms of what our expectations are of LGBT themes in film," Yutani said.
"I hope it offers an honest take on a relationship between two men," Haigh told TheWrap. "I wanted the film to be completely authentic in all respects -- for it to be a love story but also something more...I wanted it to explore universal themes and ideas that are more than mere sexuality."
"The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye"
Film and live performance art collide during the July 9 screening of the movie, about the gender and identity transformations the duo underwent as part of their Pandrogyne project.
The screening will be followed by a performance featuring Genesis P-Orridge's spoken-word based project Thee Majesty, marking the band's first West Coast appearance.
The movie is being screened as part of the festival's Platinum showcase. Outfest will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Platinum with a bash July 16 at the Alexandria Hotel.
"The Family Complete"
For the more adventurous festival-goer, director Imaizumi Koichi's July 12 short film showing offers a totally twisted look at family dynamics and sexual obsession.
Additional short films-to-see include "Shots in the Dark" (July 8 and 11), and "Fusion Shorts" (July 10), standouts from this year's L.A. People of Color Film Festival.
The festival takes place from July 7-17 at various theaters across Los Angeles, including the newly-built Eli and Edith Broad Stage in Santa Monica, Directors Guild of America, John Anson Ford Ampitheatre, Laemmle Sunset 5, Orpheum Theater, Redcat: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center's Village at Ed Gould Plaza.